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King Arthur Copyright?

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King Arthur Copyright?

Postby lovesaphira » Sat Apr 25, 2009 2:59 am

I know that King Arthur is a legend and people take on the ideas of Arthurian legend for their own novels, films, TV shows and such, but are there concepts around him that are copyrighted? Like Excalibur or Lancelot or stuff like that. I'm thinking of writing a story that's based around his legend and I've been doing research on him but I'm not sure what's copyrighted and what's not.
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Re: King Arthur Copyright?

Postby Grand Evander » Sat Apr 25, 2009 9:53 am

I'm pretty sure King Arthur and most any other aspect of the Arthurian legends are free domain as far as copyrights go. There are myriad examples of modern innovations and reinventions of the classic tale. The Mists of Avalon based on Morgan Le Fay as the heroine immediately comes to mind. I'm pretty sure you can also write about characters like Sherlock Holmes if you wanted, just not reprint the original stories in which they were found. I think a lot of the criticism that befalls using classical characters in your own story is the authenticity of the portrayal.
Last edited by Grand Evander on Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: King Arthur Copyright?

Postby lovesaphira » Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:00 pm

Thankyou :D
i just wasn't sure so i thought i'd ask, hehe
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Re: King Arthur Copyright?

Postby Grand Evander » Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:01 pm

No worries, I actually have a character in my own WIP I liken to Morgan Le Fay, though I tend to also draw on the loose relationship with the Morrigan from Irish mythology.
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Re: King Arthur Copyright?

Postby spknoevl » Wed May 06, 2009 1:55 pm

King Arthur is in the public domain since he is a figure from English mythology. However, I'm not so sure whether the Doyle estate retains rights to the Sherlock Holmes name or not. Either way, copywrighted or not, I wouldn't suggest using a character so closely identified with a particular author.
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Re: King Arthur Copyright?

Postby Grand Evander » Wed May 06, 2009 4:41 pm

I was just using Sherlock Holmes as an example, but point taken. I know while Doyle was still writing, in France Maurice Leblanc pitted Arsene Lupin against Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate Lupin's superior skills as both a detective and a thief. He was sued and forced to rename the Holmes character to Herlock Sholmes. Modern editions of Leblanc's work, however, have the character properly titled. I'm not sure how the copyright extends in other countries, but in the US a copyright is valid for the author's life + 70 years now. It used to be 50 but the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 changed it. This act also extended works of corporate authorship to 120 years or 95 after publication, whichever comes first. Allegedly this act was introduced to prevent Mickey Mouse from becoming public domain, since the time after Walt Disney's death was quickly approaching. Doyle died in 1930, so over 70 years have expired for what's it worth.

Incidentally, Miguel Cervantes had a similar problem with someone writing a sequel to Don Quixote. A lot of literary scholars credit this apocryphal work as inspiring Cervantes to write the second book, wherein he kills Don Quixote at the end to prevent the character from ever being used again. The second book makes a lot of references to the impostor Don Quixote, kind of overlapping levels of reality as Cervantes is famous for.

Your conclusion is the main criticism I've heard about using another author's characters. It's very hard to pull off and you're almost guaranteed to disappoint/outrage fans of the original literature. The only instances I can think of where using an established character worked are in satirical or comical works.
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Re: King Arthur Copyright?

Postby River Boy » Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:02 am

Do people think that Arthur really existed, or are we dubious about folklore?

Personally I'm a keen folklorist and I'm preparing works based on Robin Hood, Lady Godiva and Hereward the Wake, but where King Arthur has come from and what he stands for is more difficult to figure out. Mostly I think because after the Norman Conquest all of our favourite heroes had their stories re-written with an overriding French sentiment. I'd ignore researching texts like Mort D'Arthur or those of Chretien De Troyes if you want to get really close to the legend - not that I have anything against French folklore and mythology.
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